I have noticed a disturbing practice recently after talking with three new clients who were each hit by an at-fault driver.
Actually, I should say that I have been reacquainted with an insurance company practice; one which is ever-present and is damaging to individuals. The scenario: client is hit by an at-fault defendant driver, parties exchange insurance information at the requirement of the responding police officer, client submits a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance, and the claim disappears into a black hole.
First, it takes the defendant company some time to “open the claim”. Then, the claim is set up, and transferred to another adjuster. This takes a little more time. Each time, the client calls, and is put on hold, transferred, etc. Then, an appraiser comes out to give a dollar value to the damage. This is set up at a time convenient to the adjuster, not the client.
The car is evaluated, and then an offer of settlement is made. The offer is not good enough. The client disputes it, and the insurance company either transfers the claim again, stops returning phone calls, or says “that’s our best offer, take it or leave it.” In any of the events, the timeline to deal with the adjusters is long. Each call from the client is met with terminally long hold times, or adjuster voice mail boxes. The clients are caught on the insurance adjuster merry-go-round.
In the meantime, the adjusters are being passive-aggressive to the clients by continuing to low-ball the amount of property damage, and make insinuations that the client’s vehicle is a low value model, or old, or some other such ugly tactic. At the same time, they are encouraging the clients to avoid contacting an attorney by assuring them that they are working hard on the claim.
In most instances, the right hand in an insurance company doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. That is on purpose. Every time a file is transferred, the new adjuster has to perform the same work that the previous adjuster performed, and it slows down the time that they pay out on a vehicle.
Also, the insurance companies know that the longer it takes to make an offer on a client’s vehicle, the more desperate the client becomes. Frequently, clients only have one vehicle. By delaying and low-balling, the insurance company puts the client in the terrible position of having to take less money simply to pay to get a rental car, or to purchase a new, lesser valued vehicle.
This happens every single day, and it is terrible. It may not go exactly according to my script above, but I am positive that most people will recognize part of that as true to their own experience.
The most difficult aspect to this tactic is that 99% of the time, individuals that experience this treatment from the insurance companies are also injured. They are wary of hiring an attorney because they are being told by the insurance company all along that “their claim will be taken care of”, even as it is not. They delay in getting to a care provider, or they delay in meeting with a lawyer to get advice because they are assured that they will be treated fairly.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I can’t tell you how many clients I have had come in for a meeting after being strung along by an insurance adjuster on their vehicle property damage claim. In the meantime, they have not gotten the appropriate care. By the time they come to me, they need certain care but the insurance company is telling them that it has been too long between the treatment and the initial collision, and then the company denies coverage of the treatment!
I don’t want to sound overly cynical. On the other hand, I know how insurance companies work. If you are in a car accident, call and set up an appointment with me immediately. I am happy to spend time meeting with you to let you know your rights, even if you don’t choose to retain me afterward. Don’t place your trust in a company who has no duty to deal with you in an up-front manner.
We can examine your insurance documents and make sure that you have rental car coverage, medical payments coverage, and other coverages that you might not immediately recognize as helpful to you, such as uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
Thank you for the opportunity to vent on the topic!